Dustin Wolf high fives fans during the AHL All-Star events in San Jose earlier this month. Photo: Jonathan Natividad

Gilroy native and professional ice hockey goalie Dustin Wolf was selected to his second straight American Hockey League All-Star team. 

All-star events took place in early February and were particularly special for Wolf as the host city was San Jose, with the Skills Competition and All-Star Challenge games at the TechCU Arena, just south of downtown.

Wolf, in the Calgary Flames NHL organization, has been named “Goalie of the Year” in the AHL, the NHL’s minor league, the last two seasons. He has played in a handful of NHL games already and the outlook is for many more soon. 

Wolf made his NHL debut for the Flames on April 12, 2023. He played four games in the NHL in the 2023-24 season prior to the All-Star activities. 

Wolf is just the third-ever NHL player from Santa Clara County and is the first from the Gilroy/Morgan Hill area. 

“These are the events you look forward to,” said Wolf, after the All-Star events. “And I had friends and family in attendance. I’ll get to spend some time with family in Morgan Hill the next few days.”

The majority of his local relatives are in Morgan Hill and claim Live Oak High School roots. Wolf lived in Morgan Hill until age 10, when the family relocated to southern California, where he worked closely with goalie coach James Jensen.

“I was born in the hospital in Gilroy,” Wolf said. “We lived a few minutes away in Morgan Hill. Diana Avenue. I went to the Charter School of Morgan Hill until the fourth grade. We went to as many Sharks games as we could. I started skating at age four and switched over to goalie as soon as I could. My parents weren’t too happy. (Sharks goalie) Evgeni Nabokov was my hero.”

Parents Mike and Michelle Wolf were Sharks season ticket holders. Michelle told the Calgary Sun the only time the baby would kick during her pregnancy was during Sharks games. She mentioned it symbolized hockey was the sport and the goalie position was going to be for him.

“We’ll be in Morgan Hill the next few days at my grandma’s house,” said Wolf, after the All-Star activities. “Rest some and have some good Mexican food. There are so many authentic places in the area. The next (Calgary Wranglers) game is not until Friday. My objective is to play as many games as I can and help the team. If I get the call (up to the NHL again), I’ll do what I can.”

Wolf began his professional career in the AHL late in the 2020-21 season. He has played with the Calgary Flames’ farm club since the 2021-22 season, first in Stockton and later in Calgary itself when the club was moved to the same city as the NHL franchise. His extensive superb play with the Calgary Wranglers earned him the second straight All-Star invite. 

Wolf, rated by The Athletic as the fifth-best goalie under the age of 23, is basically NHL ready but the two slots on the Calgary Flames NHL team have been filled by Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar. Wolf expresses patience.

“My chances will come,” Wolf said. “You want to play at the highest level. I hope that door opens at some point.”

The door opened again for another NHL shot while Wolf was in town. 

An injury to Vladar moved him to the injured reserve list and Wolf was called back up to the NHL on Feb. 9. He started the game against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 15 and is currently in a tandem with primary starter Markstrom.

Dustin Wolf takes the ice for the 2024 AHL All-Star game. Photo: Jonathan Natividad

Superb talent

After moving to the Los Angeles area at age 10, Wolf played with the Los Angeles Junior Kings for seven years. He was quickly recognized as a superb talent.

“In my opinion, he’s one of the top ’01 goalies in the country (born in 2001),” said Nick Vachon, Junior Kings coach when Wolf played there. “He’s dedicated himself to getting better and it shows—continuously putting a lot of time and energy into working on his skills. We’ve admired his attitude, demeanor and composure—no matter the situation, he’s been dialed in.”

Wolf then began his junior career with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League and starred there for four years, 2017-18 through 2020-21. Wolf racked up superb goals-against averages of 2.25, 1.69, 1.88 and 1.80 and save percentages of .928, .936, .935 and .940. 

He won the Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Trophy as the WHL’s scholastic player of the year, as well as being named the Canadian Hockey League Scholastic Player of the Year for a combination of on-ice performance and maintaining a 100% average in his grade 12 classes.

Wolf was drafted and signed by Calgary in the 2019 Entry Draft and has been working his way up by excelling in the AHL. In the AHL, he posted additional impressive statistics. In 2021-22, his goals-against average was 2.35 with a save percentage of .924. In 2022-23, the numbers were 2.09 and .932.

The Pacific Division team won the second day’s All-Star Challenge event, with Wolf as the winning goalie. In the locker room afterwards, Calgary teammate Matt Coronato exclaimed, “Wolfie was hot.” 

The 2024 MVP for the weekend was Arshdeep Bains, who currently plays for the Vancouver AHL team, the Abbotsford Canucks.

“It’s amazing,” Wolf said. “The crowd was electric. We put one more in than they did.”

Standing at 6-foot-0, Wolf is a little smaller than most current goaltenders. However, that is not an issue for Wolf due to his agile side-to-side movement and positioning, as well as his quick reflexes.

“It’s definitely also my skating,” Wolf said. “Being able to move quickly. Read the plays. See what’s going on and see pucks well.”

Wolf is renowned for his on-ice warmup routine. At the start of each period, he ends his warmups with a vertical jump, launching his entire body a few feet off the ice. And it looks like the Gilroy/Morgan Hill kid is also launching himself into a stellar NHL career.

Dustin Wolf watches the 2024 AHL All-Star events with his teammates. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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